The Hardest Part of The Writing Process

Someone once asked me what the hardest part of the writing process is for me.  It took me awhile to figure this out.  I don't like revising as much as I like writing the first draft so my initial reaction was:  revisions, of course!  But no, sometimes revisions are fun and in the end, they are quite gratifying so I can't say that revisions are the hardest part of the writing process for me. 

It's the second draft.

The dreaded second draft.  Here's why.  I write my first draft like a maniac.  It gushes out like water from a leaky roof in a hurricane and I don't have enough buckets to catch it all.  It's all over the place. 

I have a rule when I write a first draft which is that no matter what happens, I just keep going.  Kind of like when I was studying martial arts and we would have a belt test coming up.  My instructor used to say that no matter what happens, you don't stop.  You just keep going.  Even if you screw up.  Even if you screw up BIG.  Keep.  Going.  Get to the end of the test and worry about the results later.  You know, because if you were in a fight and you threw a punch that wasn't perfect, you wouldn't stop and tell your assailant, "Hey dude, time out, I think I messed up that punch.  Can we try that again?"  In fighting, as in the first draft, it gets messy.  You just keep going.

It was great advice and I use it in my writing.  If I get to a place in my first draft where I don't know what happens next, I simply skip ahead to the next part that I know.  Or I go backward to a scene I couldn't quite iron out earlier and skipped over.  But I do not stop.

So when I get to the end, my novel looks like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys have torn out his stuffing and thrown it all over the damn place.

Which means that in the next draft I have to gather up all that stuffing and try to make some sense of it.  I have to put everything in order so that if a human being were to read it, it would make sense.  It's like a giant puzzle.  I have to fit all the pieces together to form something coherent.

For me that is the hardest part.  Once all the puzzle pieces are in place, I've got something to work with so revisions after that are not that big a deal.  I mean they're hard, don't get me wrong but they are not as challenging as fitting all those pieces together.  That's where I am right now in the WIP and it's giving me a headache.  I wouldn't have it any other way but still, it's slow-going.

What's the hardest part for you? 


  1. It's funny how we all operate differently. I read stuff over and over as I go. For me there is no real second draft. I do a second read through and make minor edits, but usually the story pretty much stays intact from point A to point B. I am VERY anal!

  2. My first draft took forever. It was agonizing sometimes how slowly I wrote. However, like otin, the story didn't change a whole lot on the second draft. I plan next time to have a better road map, outlining more, so I can speed through the writing part and still end up with a pretty solid first draft. I'm not sure how it'll work out, but I figure it's worth a try. :)

  3. I've never mastered the quick first draft. I get too caught up in getting it right on the first try. I mean, it does mean I don't have a lot of rearranging to do when I'm done, but my first drafts are incredibly slow. It's frustrating sometimes, and so I've been trying to adopt this "push ahead no matter what" attitude. I think it did get me over the hump the other day, so that's good. :))

  4. Hardest part for me is probably just reading the darn thing when I'm finished. It's tough looking at your own words!

  5. Great post! :)

    I'm going to have to agree with you on this one. The second draft is a beast!

  6. Well I've only done the whole process once, but since I'm just starting a new book, I'd have to say my hardest part is the plotting, the coming up with ideas for each chapter & keeping it exciting while moving toward a goal. The first time was a blur. This second time is more methodical.

  7. I wish I could race through the first draft - that's the most difficult for me. I work better when I can see the story on paper. I'm also meticulous and try to get most of it right the first time, which makes the process even slower. NaNo 2010 almost killed me. (But I did it!)

  8. Without a doubt it is revising… I believe it’s because I am still learning my craft and the proper writing technique. I can blow out a first draft with ease, 100k word manuscript in 60 days… no prob.

    For me the first draft, through the 26 draft, is all revising… deepening characters, customizing dialog for each person—fleshing out setting and mood, trying to establish a theme, perfect my rhythm and cut needless words… and so on. Any tweaking, at least for me, is revising---because, once you fix a small problem you realize it was contagious throughout your work… and not to mention, once you make something look better, everything else pales in compassion and demands to be renovated as well.

  9. *I meant second draft though the 26th draft is all revision*

  10. ". . . my novel looks like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys have torn out his stuffing and thrown it all over the damn place" This is hilarious! And I can relate to it. : )

    The first draft is the hardest stage in the process for me. I hate it, but I LOVE revising, so I just hold my breath and get the first draft on paper.

  11. Yes - 'keep going' is the very best advice for a first draft! I too find it hard when it comes to having to sort out that messy first draft!

  12. I did the same thing with my first draft and just kept going, and it certainly was a mess when I got to the end. I cracked up about the scarecrow, great comparison! Right now though I'm finding the query process to be the hardest thing. I can't get a good letter written to save my life and it's driving me nuts.


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